I have been in the city for a week now, and myself and the Hellhound had a hankering for the forest.
I needed the energy of the trees along with the earthy scent that you just can’t get anywhere else; the slowly rotting golden leaves adding their own note to the woodland perfume at this time of year.
I searched ‘woods’ in Google Maps and off we went.
It was a couple of hours after dark when we arrived and found the gate to the small car park closed. We cheekily parked in front of the locked gate and I threw the bright orange dog coat over Shuyet to make sure people could see him coming.
Nothing makes people more nervous than a Doberman suddenly appearing from behind a tree in the dark.
It was then that I noticed the forest was on either side of the busy road. Humans in all their wisdom decided to simply put a road right in the middle of this very old wood. It felt like a huge insult, the land wasn’t happy.
We ducked under the metal railing and entered the car park hoping that there would be signs of a footpath we could follow. Sure enough, in the left hand corner there was the trusty green sign inviting us to walk into the wood and see what we would find.
Now, there are two reasons I walk in the forest at night. The first is because as the owner of a dog with high prey drive, it makes our walks a lot nicer and doesn’t involve chasing and obsessing over every squirrel we see. The second is because it scares me.
I don’t mean, ‘ooooo what a thrill’ scares me. I mean, I don’t like it one bit. I fear it.
So being the defiant woman I am, I face it head on and seek it out often. And it has helped.
…back to scene…
Shuyet is ahead of me with trees on either side, the sky is cloudy so there isn’t a lot of light from the moon as I wait for my eyes to adjust to the change in light.
I walk warily along the path, tripping on a tree root every now and then, but doing fine. Shuyet on the other hand is in his element with his nose taking over and drinking up every critter who has passed since it last rained.
We were walking for about five minutes deeper into the forest when the foliage began to change and bushes started to spring from the ground until you could only see the earth on the pathway, the rest of the forest floor was covered in brambles and decaying ferns.
We also started to walk down an incline.
Something wasn’t feeling great, but I am aware of forest spirits, the dead and the fae roaming in these places so I simply took a deep breath and tried to centre myself so my mind didn’t run away with me.
Then for some reason I was reminded of the following quote…an edit on something written by the wonderful Terry Pratchett…
And no sooner had I finished telling myself that I was fine because of my witchery, when someone said in my head…
“But you’re not the only witch.”
It was at this precise moment Shuyet started whining.
I turned on my heels and was confronted by a thick fog that wasn’t there a second ago. We ‘calmly’ (code for walked as fast as I could without tripping over stuff in the pitch black) walked back the way we came as I said out loud “We are leaving as fast as we can.”
As I put my feelers out she felt OLD, and I mean primordial old.
I had stumbled into her territory and she was pissed.
She felt me put my feelers out so the next thing I see is a maniacal woman in her 60’s running at us from behind with limbs going everywhere screeching.
I can’t go any fucking faster. I DO NOT want to cut myself and spill even a teeny drop of my blood in this forest.
I breath deeper and just keep on going.
The maniac isn’t the witch. I just know it. She’s just a tool to scare people off, a spirit who isn’t fully cognitive under the control of the witch.
As soon as I turn back around to face the fog I can’t hear her any more, but I make the mistake of leaving my feelers out, which means the darkness of a place comes to the forefront.
I know there was once body parts scattered here, decapitations, hangings and animals gutted in ritual. Swords are everywhere.
I can see these events happening in real time and the imprint it has left, whether residue or a residing spirit.
All whilst walking as fast as possible in the dark trying not to die from falling over or a spirit caused heart attack.
If I did die Shuyet would be pissed.
We finally reached the car park, the dense fog stopped exactly at the border of the forest and we headed straight for the car before reversing straight out and getting the hell out of Ruislip.
Some of you might feel I should have stood my ground – I don’t. Not for safety reasons but because I was in her territory, her woods.
On a daily basis she has people invading her home taking sacred plants, affecting the trees, touching things they do not know the value of. This after we decided to cut her woods in half with a huge great road going through the centre of it.
If someone came into my land and did this, especially to the trees, I’d be devastated.
This woman predated Christianity so she knew the forest in all it’s glory. She was the forest.
Before writing this post I had a quick search for images of Ruislip Woods so I could add it as the feature image above. When I did it turned up some interesting information; the woods are known as ‘Mad Bess Woods’.
Mad Bess used to run around the woods at night searching for poachers and there is even a cottage named after her.
I cannot help but wonder if the maniacal woman running at us was a part of Mad Bess, it sure wasn’t all of her.